FOR ULTIMATE ancestors, the epigram boasts the Greek Anthology, that versatile collection of pagan and Christian poems written over a period of nineteen hundred years, and Martial, who preëmpted sovereignty of the form among the Romans. Relative terseness is almost the only quality shared by these two. While satire and "point" are not entirely absent from the Anthology, they are obviously not its essence or mark; with Martial, from whom the Renaissance tradition chiefly stems, the epigram becomes "epigrammatic." 1
Gruter's ample Delitiae, collections of the Italian, French, and Netherlandish poets, include, in their repertoires of Renaissance Latin verse, an abundance of epigrams. There are moralizing distichs and quatrains, classical celebrations of Homer, Pindar, Narcissus, Cupid, innumerable epigrams on illustrious persons -- the Popes and Cardinals, Thomas More, Erasmus, Sir Philip Sidney, Queen Elizabeth; but, though many of the poets are priests, sacred epigrams are rare among them.
The Latin epigrams of the English schoolmaster, John Owen, collected in 1624, exerted wide influence throughout the century and found translation into